It's sad to admit it, but kids today probably couldn't pick Admiral Ackbar out of a police line-up. And that's just the start: they couldn't tell you where Endor is, or explain why you should never accept the offer of a timeshare in Alderaan either, and they'd almost certainly struggle to provide any useful information regarding the Millennium Falcon's performance on the Kessel Run.
To this wayward generation, Star Wars means The Clone Wars, the animated TV show that currently has such a hypnotic hold over today's two to 11 year-old boys that, should George Lucas ever turn to the Dark Side himself, he'll likely find himself with a ready-made army of brainwashed children itching to do his bidding. I hope that puts swine flu in some kind of perspective.
Clone Wars is the version of Star Wars that already looks like a videogame: the blocky, angular, stylised Star Wars with lots of purple in the colour palette, and a bunch of the same characters who were in the prequels clogging up the cast listings. If you went to see any of the original films on their first release runs, chances are Clone Wars isn't aimed at you, but although Activision's forthcoming licensed title isn't aimed at you either - the developers have, rather understandably, targeted it an audience of two to 11 year-old boys - it's actually looking like a relatively decent kids' adventure nonetheless.
Or maybe that should be two relatively decent kids' adventures. The first Clone Wars game, last year's Wii turkey Lightsaber Duels, was a limited offering, stumbling over unresponsive motion controls and limping through its short campaign as if a tauntaun had stepped on its foot. (I am now entirely out of Star Wars references, unless an opportunity to work Bib Fortuna in somewhere pops up in the next few minutes.) This one looks like a more involved affair, a multi-platform release with a plot that bridges the gap between the first and second series of the TV show, focusing on a mysterious danger posed by a "techno assassin", and offering you two different single-player storylines to play through, following both Jedi and clone trooper trajectories.
It sounds like a recipe for character reskins and padding, then, but LucasArts appears to be putting the work in this time, each campaign using entirely different control schemes and mechanics. And if you're not excited at the prospect of that, perhaps you haven't spent enough time being a two to 11 year-old boy recently.
The Jedi campaign foregrounds lightsaber combat and simple platforming, with the main twist coming in the form of what LucasArts is referring to as "Droids as toys", a system that allows you to hijack any of the game's robots and turn their abilities to your advantage. Don't expect Water Temple levels of creativity: the example we're shown has Anakin leaping on top of a turret droid, before coaxing it into mowing down an oncoming wave of enemies, but there's a fair bit of variety promised, and the accompanying animation is excellent - the young Darth Vader (spoiler?) is a dainty ballerina of death as he leaps onto the droid's head before jamming his lightsaber into the poor thing's brain and then using it as a joystick.
If LucasArts can keep the robot varieties coming, and build a range of clever situations around them, it may be just the thing to add a simple puzzle element to the wall-running and glum-faced Jedi brawling that makes up the rest of the first campaign.
The clone trooper game is much more of a shooter, employing - this is a genuine surprise - a twin-stick control method that should be entirely familiar to anyone who's played Robotron 2084 or downloaded any of the swarm of variants available on XBLA and PSN, the left stick controlling movement and the right allowing you to aim and shoot. Whether it works as well as it did for Eugene Jarvis without the benefits of a top-down view (the Clone campaign, like the Jedi offering, uses a standard third-person action game perspective with the camera parked behind you for the most part) remains to be seen, and the Wii version, which opts for a kind of guided laser pointer with the remote, sounds potentially rather fiddly and annoying, but it's an unexpected pleasure to see a game in which different campaigns really promise to play in a radically different way.
Alongside shooting, there's lots of cover and a decent thermal grenade option for the clones, both of which you'll need to use fairly heavily, as the linear levels switch between narrow hallways and small arena-type areas quite quickly, and the game misses no opportunity to fling hordes of enemies at you. Clear a room and you may be offered the chance to complete an impromptu mini-game (the one we're shown asks you to mow down a certain amount of baddies in ninety seconds) which loads directly into the game world without breaking the flow of the campaign, but despite such unexpected challenges, and regardless of the number of on-screen enemies, even when things get tough, respawns are pretty seamless, and the checkpointing seems suitably generous.
While the stylings are all lifted from the TV show, then, Clone Wars' developers have clearly been paying a lot of attention to the LEGO games, particularly in the way Republic Heroes uses a hassle-free drop-in, drop-out co-op system, and allows you to unlock a freeplay mode on completion. With more than 30 missions to play through, and around 16 or so characters to choose from, the game is similarly attuned to play directly to that strange form of OCD kids who like science-fiction shows all seem to possess.
LucasArts sees Clone Wars as an "intergenerational brand", but that's probably wishful thinking. Colourful and friendly, yet rather slight, Republic Heroes seems a little too simplistic for adults, who tend to prefer the complex interpersonal dynamics and philosophical rumblings of something like, ooh, let's say The Force Unleashed. So if you belong to the age of Ackbar, and remember when sets were made of wood, R2D2 was largely immobile, and Han Solo ruled the space-lanes, you're probably going to find the latest Clone Wars title something of a letdown - for kids, however, this looks likely to be almost terrifyingly effective.